Heroic efforts of UAB emergency department nurses recognized by Alabama State Nurses Association

UAB received statewide nursing awards, including two Nurse Legion of Honor medals, Outstanding Healthcare Organization and State Outstanding Nurse Educator.

UAB nurses holding awards at award ceremonyDonald Reiff, M.D.; Blayke Gibson, M.D.; Sherichia Hardy, RN; India Alford, RNThe Alabama State Nurses Association has presented the University of Alabama at Birmingham with seven top awards in a ceremony at the UAB School of Nursing. The awards included two Nurse Legion of Honor medals, the highest award given by ASNA, and the Outstanding Healthcare Organization award presented to the UAB Emergency Department.

The newly created Nurse Legion of Honor Medal is given for heroic service beyond the risks normally associated within the nursing profession. Sherichia Hardy and India Alford, both nurse managers within UAB Emergency Services, received the Nurse Legion of Honor Medal for their roles in saving the life of Arnoldo Vasquez Hernandez, a Fultondale man who was trapped under a tree after the Jan. 25 tornado earlier this year. 

“This is the first time the Nurse Legion of Honor Medal has been awarded,” said Terri Poe, DNP, UAB’s chief nursing officer. “It is a testament to the hard work, dedication and excellent care provided by Sherichia and India, who are representative of our entire UAB Nursing community.”

On the night of the tornado, Hardy and Alford received the call about Hernandez and rushed to his home, navigating through debris from the EF3 tornado. They quickly set up IVs and blood to stabilize him until Donald Reiff, M.D., acute care surgeon at UAB Medicine, and Blayke Gibson, M.D., emergency medicine physician, arrived. With the house on the verge of collapse, the team determined the only way to save Hernandez was to perform an on-site amputation. Four hours after the tornado, Hernandez was safely transported to UAB Hospital.  

Nurses holding awards Deborah Thedford-Zimmerman, MSN.; Loretta Lee, Ph.D., with Dean Doreen HarperAfter the heroic actions of the emergency care team, ASNA selected the UAB Emergency Department as their Outstanding Healthcare Organization. The award is given to an organization that provides extraordinary direct health care to a patient and is a desirable working environment for nurses. Reiff and Gibson received the Outstanding Non-Member Award for their efforts in saving Hernandez.

Loretta Lee, Ph.D., associate professor in the UAB School of Nursing, was awarded the State Outstanding Nurse Educator award. ASNA presents the award to an educator who demonstrates excellence in an academic setting by expanding the knowledge of students and the nursing profession through teaching and service.   

Deborah Thedford-Zimmerman, MSN, past president of the Birmingham Black Nurses Association and a UAB alumna, received the UAB National Alumni Society Volunteer of the Year award and the ASNA Lillian Holland Harvey award. She was recognized for her efforts in helping the BBNA administer COVID-19 vaccines to the local Birmingham community and her dedication in the advancement of minority groups and improvement of services provided to underserved areas.

“Dr. Lee’s and Dr. Thedford-Zimmerman’s dedication to shaping and improving patient-centered, equitable health care through education and service exemplify the core values and mission of our school,” said Doreen Harper, Ph.D., dean of the UAB School of Nursing. “They are the definition of creative leaders transforming health care.”